Nathan Horton, Brian Boucher

Peter Laviolette won’t put all the blame on Flyers’ goalies

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There are plenty of reasons why the Philadelphia Flyers should go into their two important games in Boston with some confidence. The first is that they probably outplayed the Bruins in Game 2, putting a franchise playoff record 52 shots on Tim Thomas, who was up to the task. There’s also a bit of precedent to the possibility of a comeback. Of course, the Flyers came back from an 0-3 deficit against Boston last year, but the Bruins themselves survived two opening home losses against the Montreal Canadiens before grinding out a series win.

It’s also tough to ignore the fact that both teams were actually better on the road than at home this season. The Flyers earned 25 wins and 55 points on the road* but only 22 wins and 51 points at home; the Bruins earned 24 wins and 53 points in away games versus 22 wins and 50 points in Boston. It’s not a massive difference, but it shows that both teams don’t depend on home cooking.

* Points include “charity points” plus points from wins.

Now that we have some of the positives covered, let’s get to everyone’s favorite negative: the team’s goaltending. After a truly awful Game 1, Brian Boucher was actually quite good in Game 2, making 32 out of 35 saves. Unfortunately for the Flyers, the goalie on the other end of the ice happened to put together a sublime performance.

Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette told Tim Panaccio of CSN Philly that it’s unfair to place all the blame on their goalies and also pointed out that their team doesn’t expect netminders to steal games.

“Certainly we need all of our players to play well. To put that much direction on one player, that is not how we are built. We’re built as a team. We have been successful all year as the sum of all parts. To say we don’t need good goaltending would not be true. We need good offense and defense and that is how we survive here. We don’t do it by one person.

“It’s unfair to single out a guy and put that much [on the goalie]. That is not how we’re built. If  it was how we were built, you’d certainly think that.”

(snip)

“I am not letting anyone off the hook here, including the goaltender,” Laviolette said. “The goaltender has to play well, as does our defense. There are certain things we can do better. Our power play needs to click. Our penalty kill has to do its job.”

Perhaps the biggest concern is Boucher’s health, though. Panaccio points out that Boucher is dealing with a dislocated finger, not exactly the most reassuring bit of news for a guy who needs some breaks to go his way.

The Flyers go into Game 3 with some reason for confidence – if nothing else, they still employ players like Danny Briere and James van Riemsdyk – but they know that their goalies aren’t likely to bail them out.

In other words, they’ll need to provide plenty of firepower. It might keep their fans on edge, but it could make for some compelling hockey. (You can see Game 3 Wednesday night at 7 p.m. ET on Versus, by the way.)

Latest way the Wild lost? Killed by penalty kill

Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk sits on the ice after giving up a goal to St. Louis Blues' Jori Lehtera, of Finland, during the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
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It’s said that variety is the spice of life, yet it seems to be the spite of the Minnesota Wild.

As head coach Mike Yeo said, this struggling team appears to find a new way to lose virtually every night. That couldn’t have happened once again on Saturday, when they fell 4-1 to the St. Louis Blues, could it?

Actually …

If you ask Jarret Stoll, the latest problem was the penalty kill.

Honestly, Stoll may have been too specific, likely trying to throw his own unit under the bus. Instead, it might be more accurate to say that Minnesota’s special teams let them down.

Indeed, the Wild struggled to limit the Blues’ power play, which went an unsettling 3-for-6. That said, Minnesota had a chance to trade blows with St. Louis. Instead, the Wild managed one power-play goal on seven opportunities.

The silver lining is that the Wild believe that they showed more fight than this fragile bunch had been generating before.

On the other hand, with Jonas Brodin on IR and Jared Spurgeon apparently hurt, that silver lining may not be so easy to see.

Statement in Blackhawks’ blowout of Stars? Coach Q says they’re even

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Worry (if you’re pulling for the Stars) or gloat (if you’re a Blackhawks fan) all you want, but the bottom line is that the Central Division’s No.1 spot is clearly in Chicago’s control after Saturday night.

The Blackhawks earned a decisive 5-1 win against the Dallas Stars, giving them a five-point standings lead over Dallas for the Central Division lead.

You may feel like that’s more of the same, but consider this: things would look a lot closer if Dallas won or gained points, as they hold three games in hand on the ‘Hawks.

At least one Blackhawks player admits this game means a little more than your average W.

Indeed, while Antti Niemi was pulled from the game and Kari Lehtonen faced his own struggles in Dallas’ net, Corey Crawford ranked as one of the big reasons why the score was so lopsided.

(Artem Anisimov had a big say in that, too.)

As a wise coach with 1,000+ games of experience would do, Joel Quenneville didn’t go overboard in assessing the victory.

Was this a statement game? Who knows, but a certain statement is that the Blackhawks now have a five-point standings lead.

Brad Marchand wins it … on a penalty shot … in overtime

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Looking at the standings, beating the Buffalo Sabres was pretty important for the Boston Bruins. The Atlantic Division’s run for spots appears particularly congested out East.

Of all the Bruins to get a chance to win it all, the team might have wanted Brad Marchand to have that opportunity. He’s on pace to destroy his previous career-highs for scoring, and Marchand’s been particularly hot lately.

Either way, Marchand came up big indeed, scoring the rare overtime game-winner on a penalty shot. Check out the drama below:

That can be a big extra point and ROW (regulation/overtime win) when the regular season is finished.

Note: Many believe that Marchand should not have received a penalty shot on the play.

Crosby kills the Cats: Penguins end Panthers’ winning streak

Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby (87) collides with Florida Panthers' Connor Brickley (86) during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Pittsburgh, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
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For quite some time, it looked like the Florida Panthers would keep the Pittsburgh Penguins under wraps.

Florida nursed a 1-0 lead into a 2-0 margin almost halfway through the third period, looking to win its sixth consecutive game. That looked great … and then Sidney Crosby + Kris Letang happened.

Let’s put it this way: this GIF of Crosby being frustrated is amusing, yet it doesn’t exactly tell the story of Saturday’s 3-2 overtime win for the Penguins:

Instead, Crosby grabbed his 900th point assisting on a Letang goal, and finished the night with 902 by collecting the game-tying goal and grabbing a helper on Letang’s overtime game-winner.

Crosby crossing that barrier is indeed special, even if it prompts “What if?” questions about No. 87’s health.

The resurgence of Crosby and Letang already played a big role in the Penguins going from disjointed and frustrating to sneaky and scary, so it  shouldn’t be that surprising to see them play so well. Doing so in such brisk order is a little bewildering, however.